Comedian, Felipe Esparza is no stranger to the spotlight. He was featured on Center Stage Comedy’s ‘Festival of Laughs Tour’ (2016), NBC’s ‘Last Comic Standing’ and in a recurring role on the NBC comedy ‘SuperStore’ (2017).
Esparza’s latest feat is landing a deal with HBO for his comedy special, ‘Translate This’. The feature is written by Felipe Esparza, produced by Lesa O’Daniel and directed by Claude Shires with Unreal Media. The media mogul found ‘Translate This’ ‘irresistibly funny’ and offered him a deal.
Felipe Esparza filmed his set at the San Jose Improv. His material focused on his challenges as a child with illiterate immigrant parents. As the oldest of seven siblings, the responsibility to step-up fell on Esparza. He explains having to translate from English to Spanish at four years old. Felipe Esparza also recalls filling out immigration forms before completing homework. He even applied for both of his parents to take their US citizenship tests.
Felipe Esparza’s comedic inspiration comes from legends like Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Howie Mandel and Paul Rodriguez. Esparza said the best advice he’d ever received were words from Paul Rodriguez. Eight years into Felipe’s career, Rodriquez said, “Felipe, worry about being funny first. If you worry about being funny, then become funny, the industry will cross over to you.”
And it did.
Felipe Esparza wasn’t always on the straight and narrow. He discovered his passion for comedy after gangs, drugs and bad decisions. “I didn’t have any goals, structure, anyone to lead me or tell me how to live my life when I was a teenager. I went into a gang (they jumped me in). I was a gang member, sold drugs to people, sold drugs to myself. The drugs they gave me to sell, I took. I was an addict.”
During his battle with addiction in his early 20’s, his mother spoke with a priest who moved him into a rehab program. During his recovery, Felipe Esparza was inspired by his spiritual advisor named Tim (a recovered alcoholic). Tim asked Felipe to write down his goals in life, “I know nobody has ever asked you that. I know you didn’t wake up one day and want to be cholo gang member who sells and does drugs.” Felipe Esparza immediately wrote, “#1 – Comedian.”, “#2 – Italy”. “#3 – I want to be happy.” Esparza says, “I thought he was going to read these notes in front of everybody and I’d get judged, but he didn’t. He told us to put it away and save it and know now that we have goals. Now everybody goes out with a purpose in life. I came out of rehab and said, ‘F*ck it. I’m going to be a comedian.”
Felipe Esparza describes his opportunity on NBC’s ‘Last Comic Standing’ as the pinnacle of his career. “It opened so many doors. I became a hot commodity. A lot of agents wanted to sign me because I was new and the industry had never heard of me.”
Ever since his appearance on NBC, Felipe Esparza’s comedy career sky-rocketed. He continues to find success in all aspects of the industry.
Felipe Esparza says he is looking forward to the launch of his new, “Bad Decisions Tour”. He plans to find the humor in all the bad decisions of the past.
“I don’t take my success for granted. I feel it’s my turn to help other people.” – Felipe Esparza
For more on Felipe Esparza’s backstory, check out his new HBO special, “Translate This” now available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.